Thursday, December 20, 2012

A year in the Midwest

Picture by Dori
I've been in the Midwest just over a year and it is starting to feel a lot like home. It is a difficult place to describe to outsiders, not least because the Midwest really doesn't exist as any kind of real place. It is more of a story that people like to tell about this part of the world.

I wish it were not so, after all I am the Midwest Correspondent. But increasingly I wonder whether I might as well be the Santa Claus correspondent because the place that is the Midwest does not actually exist--although it probably ought to.

The reality is that the Midwest is a loose collection of states, some of which are very different, which are all trying to compete with each other and steal each others jobs and businesses. It is a shame that they can't work together to get ahead in a world that is changing very quickly. I hope to write about this more in the new year.

Here is a round-up of my activity over the last few months. Most recently I was in Lansing, Michigan recently, for the protests against the new right-to-work laws. About 10,000 union workers and their families and supporters turned up to protest (in vain) against the new laws. I also appeared at the World In..2013 festival. I chaired a few sessions, the briefest of which was particularly memorable with Will Tracy of The Onion. His predictions for 2013 can be seen here.

Your Christmas reading list might include these recent pieces:

Not what it used to be (American higher education) - American universities represent declining value for money to their students. Dec 1st 2012 | CHICAGO | from the print edition

ON THE face of it, American higher education is still in rude health. In worldwide rankings more than half of the top 100 universities, and eight of the top ten, are American. The scientific output of American institutions is unparalleled. They produce most of the world’s Nobel laureates and scientific papers. Moreover college graduates, on average, still earn far more and receive better benefits than those who do not have a degree. [More...]


Homeschooling - Who needs teachers? Dec 22nd 2012 | CHICAGO | from the print edition

"Every morning five-year-old Tristan starts his school day by reading in bed with his mother. He especially likes Enid Blyton. And even though he often doesn’t bother to get out of his pyjamas in time for his first class of the day, at the age of five he has a reading age of between seven and eight." [More...]


MOOCs (contributing author) - Online courses are transforming higher education, creating new opportunities for the best and huge problems for the rest Dec 22nd 2012 | CHICAGO, LONDON AND NEW YORK | from the print edition

TOP-QUALITY teaching, stringent admissions criteria and impressive qualifications allow the world’s best universities to charge mega-fees: over $50,000 for a year of undergraduate study at Harvard. Less exalted providers have boomed too, with a similar model that sells seminars, lectures, exams and a “salad days” social life in a single bundle. Now online provision is transforming higher education, giving the best universities a chance to widen their catch, opening new opportunities for the agile, and threatening doom for the laggard and mediocre. [More...]


Michigan’s right-to-work laws
Anti-union legislation in the home of the car industry, Dec 15th 2012 | LANSING | from the print edition NO SELF-RESPECTING Midwestern capitol has been untouched of late by an angry crew of drum-banging, sign-waving union workers shouting at lawmakers. The cause of all this aggravation is a wave of recent union-curbing legislation that has torn through states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and, this week, Michigan. [More...]


Energy & battery industry in Chicago - Will the city’s new energy industry thrive? Dec 8th 2012 | CHICAGO | from the print edition THESE days any self-respecting city desires a cluster—something that has nothing to do with breakfast cereal, but lots to do with whizzy ideas and bits of silicon. These concentrations of like-minded firms can attract a lot of investment, but are hard to create from scratch. In late November Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, announced that he has assembled the ingredients for a cluster of companies specialising in electric vehicles and batteries. [More..]